Friday, July 11, 2014

book review: "Child of Twilight" by Carmel Bird

*This review is on my goodreads profile  and I read and reviewed it as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge
"Child of Twilight"  by Carmel Bird. Published 2009 by HarperCollins.
Hail Carmel Bird,
Full of wit,
The word is with thee.
Blessed are you among women writers
And blessed is the fruit of your pen, “Child of the Twilight”
Holy Carmel, mother of story,
Pray for us readers now
And at the hour of our page turning,

“Child of the Twilight” is a story spun by nineteen year old Sydney, an IVF child in search of her place in the scheme of things; an identity within the “curious nature” of her origins. She tells us she “constantly peers into the lives of those to whom I would be related, if I were related to anybody at all”. And here she finds “Roland the Good, Cosimo the Archivist, Diana the Manipulator, Rosita the Spinster, Corazon the Fertile and Rufus the Virile.”

Touching all the lives is the miraculous statue of the Infant Jesus, The Bambinello, at the Franciscan church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome. The statue was prayed to by Sydney’s mother, Avila, and also by a distant relative, Callianthe, mother of Father Roland the Good, who visits the statue only to find it has been stolen. The mystery is deepened rather than solved by the involvement of the trickster priest, Father Cosimo, suggesting the statue may have, in fact, simply chosen to leave. 
Back home in Australia, Father Roland is the priest at the school where Corazon (the Fertile) Mean, year 12 student, collapses from an ectopic pregnancy while in the art room, in front of her teacher Rosita the Spinster. Sydney then adds the “Mean” family to the mix as the story branches out to cover the past and present of the lives of the family of characters, while still riffing on the history of miraculous statues, the science of reproduction and the mysteries of faith.

The “free floating”, drifting nature of the narrator (or “Navigator” as she refers to herself) gives her a playful omnipotence, at once connected and disconnected from the tree of the characters, telling us important things brusquely and teasingly hinting at others as she leaps from branch to branch with the litheness of a woodland sprite.

The story twists and turns, folds and unfolds, eventually completely entwining with such deftness you hardly have time to catch your breath. I at once wanted more – more detail, more characters, more wonderful words – while still admiring the perfect restraint of it all.

The constellation of characters past and present, living and dead, dance in an intricate and whimsical tale of faith, magic, science, mystery, love and loss. The book delights at every turn. Read it. With Carmel Bird, you are in the hands of a masterful story teller.

Carmel Bird is an exceptional Australian writer who has written fiction, non fiction, short stories, essays and how to write manuals. Her blog is the blue lotus.

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